So, yesterday we wrapped on a monstrous action short I wrote, directed and co-produced with the lead actor. Somehow in the middle of the afternoon shit went south without me realising. We were shooting fights and these are brutal, difficult, slow and hard to manage because you’re not just dealing with telling a story you also have to consider exactly how believable your impacts are.
We’re all mates and it was really just a little bit of handbags but I walked off set pissed off. Communication broke down somewhere along the line but that’s because we never set up a chain of command for how instructions and feedback were delivered.
That’s besides the point.
The point is this. When you’re the director of a film, the success of the film rests on your shoulders, squarely, unfairly perhaps, but it’s all on you. If you’ve done your homework then you have all the pieces in your head, in diagrams, on your iPad. Your strategies are flexible enough to deal with the inevitable challenges production always throws at you.
You, and you alone, have done the homework. You, and you alone, squat at the top of an enormous heaving pile of egos and corner-cutters clutching tight to the bigger picture. That’s a fucking lonely place to be. And those beneath you attack relentlessly. Everyone sees their piece of the puzzle in isolation and they fight, rightly for what they think is right. And they fight hard. But, none of them have the bigger picture. Nor will they ever have the bigger picture, even after the film is finished.
You can tell them everything but they won’t remember and they won’t care enough to keep it all there. This is why directing films is so insanely hard. Everyone is constantly doing their best to support you while what they’re actually doing is inadvertently trying to undermine you.
It requires a lot of bullheadedness. There is only one expert in your film and you’d better fucking make sure it’s you or you’re dead.
Forget about being friends. Who gives a fuck? When you’re sitting in the edit suite tearing your hair out because your lead actor talked you out of that extra take because they were sure they got it and you were good mates. Then. You’ll retreat into a small space of dreadful awful regret. Remember, it’s all on you.
You’re not there to be popular. I don’t give a shit about being friends with people anymore. I enjoy working with the people I work with, but the work is the thing now. We shoot, we challenge ourselves and we suffer a little, we suffer a lot. And we push for the best.
So. You have to be a fucking leader. You have to set the pace. You have to be the expert and you have to repel all those who want to rip that away from you.
So, when my stunt guy tells me what shot I’m actually going to use and that what I’m shooting is going to look shit. Well, he can fuck off. Because he’s not making the film. I am. If it’s shit, then that’s on me. But, after 5 days already shot, hundreds of hours spent in the company of the material and a cut that has been universally applauded, I think I’ve earned the right to dig my heels in.
I know what I’m doing. Do you?